Progress | Having, Understanding, and Replicating Success By: Jared Prusia For us, the lakes and ponds have frozen over, the birds have made it to their winter destinations and waterfowl seasons have been over for a few weeks now. It has been a season to remember, as is every season spent with friends in the field. We did our fair share of killin’ and more than our fair share of going empty handed. We battled constantly changing weather patterns for most of the seasons and found ourselves guessing at times what we could expect come time to head to the blind. The one thing I always want to come away from a season with is new knowledge. If I haven’t learned anything, nothing else matters; not the ducks we killed, not the hours we spent on stand, and not the number of times we pulled in the spread and called it another day. If nothing else…learn something! I have never and will never claim to be the best waterfowl hunter, or anywhere close for that matter, but that is not why I do it. My goal has shifted from killing as many birds as I could in a season to learning something every time I go out to make me a better hunter and a better guide for others. I feel I have accomplished my goal for the 2014-15 season. I took time to really slow down and learn what the birds were doing. A bowhunter at heart, patterning is in my blood. I get satisfaction out of waiting until the time is just right, moving in with stealth, and killing quickly with skill and accuracy. For whatever reason, until this year, I had hunted waterfowl by the “build it and they will come” methodology. I picked a field or water source, threw out my spread just right, and made camp. I figured I had seen birds there before, they should show up again…right? This was not always the case, as you already know. When it comes to whitetails, you cannot watch a buck in August coming to beans every day, hang a set, and expect to kill him during the mid-October lull. It just doesn’t work that way. As with patterning deer, patterning birds takes adaptation. Just because a spot is good today does not mean it is where I need to be the following week. If I could get some grasp on how to pattern birds by the end of season, it would be more than a successful season in my mind. Surrounding myself with far better bird hunters than myself, I questioned every place we hunted. I wanted to know why we were going there and what the strategy was behind hunting that spot. Slowly but surely I started to catch on. Breaking ice on the lakes, burying our Man Caves in corn husks, and sitting all day in the blind at the S-curve, I started to understand why were going where we were going and what the strategy was behind each setup. In the future, I can replicate setups like these and hopefully have the same success we have been having. It’s not about success. It’s about progress. It’s about understanding why we were successful, and replicating that success. That is what I learned during the 2014-15 season. While there is still so much I don’t know, I understand why certain setups produce better than others given the conditions. I have added this knowledge to lessons learned in past years and have already made room for what I will learn in the next season. For me, it is about improvement, never accepting failure, and never settling for not knowing. It’s about being Hardcore. What did you learn this season?